Facing up to the unthinkable - an Olympics without Russia and Kenya

By David Leggat

Junior athletes run past a sign for Athletics Kenya. Photo / AP
Junior athletes run past a sign for Athletics Kenya. Photo / AP

How does an Olympic Games in Rio minus Russia and Kenya sound? Both countries are in the doghouse, with the World Anti-Doping Agency giving them a towelling for failure to clean up their drug-soaked programmes.

Wada has suspended Kenya's anti-doping agency, and claims that Russia hid a pile of positive drug tests at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 merely reaffirm the view that something rotten is in play there.

Between them, those countries won 27 medals in track and field at the London Olympics in 2012. At last year's worlds, Kenya tied with Jamaica for most golds, seven. With due respect to the other Olympic sports, they are undeniably big players on the Olympics' most significant stage.

Imagine an Olympics without, for example, 800m world recordholder David Rudisha, top marathon runners, or world record pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva.

Athletics' international governing body, the IAAF, will decide on the eligibility of both countries' track and field teams for Rio on June 17.

Since the London Games, 40 Kenyans have been banned, all bar five caught outside their home country.

Russia is facing charges of four gold medallists using steroids at the Sochi Games; there are claims urine samples were switched to avoid detection in the cases of 15 drug-using medal winners.

Wada claims only 10 doping control agents are available to conduct tests throughout Russia.

It's a shambles and Rio is fast approaching. It's tempting to say, get shot of them. But that hurts the clean and honest athletes. Unfortunately in this case, it may just be tough.

Cricket has always been strongly identified with its best commentators.

If you are of a certain age, you'll remember listening to Alan McGilvray and Lindsay Hassett in the 1960s, coming through the radio from the Sydney Cricket Ground on those waves of background hum. Richie Benaud came later, perhaps the most distinctive voice in sport, and the top-class Jim Maxwell.

England had Brian Johnston, a japester alongside the likes of Fred Trueman and John Arlott, the immensely versatile Christopher Martin-Jenkins, and nowadays there is Jonathan Agnew.

New Zealand's Bryan Waddle is among the game's best ball-by-ball callers; India has the enthusiastic Harsha Bogle. And the West Indies had Tony Cozier.

He died this week at his home in Barbados, after a short illness from complications surrounding infections in his neck and legs. He was 75 and had been behind a microphone since Australia's tour of the Caribbean in 1965.

Cozier's voice was as distinctive as that of any of those other broadcasters. He savoured the highs of West Indies domination of the game, felt keenly the lows but with the West Indies administration in a shambles, and playing standards tumbling, Cozier was never afraid to call it as he saw it. No soft soaping.

He had the gift of being able to slip seamlessly between TV and radio ball-by-ball commentary. Not easy. As Agnew, the BBC correspondent, put it: "He was easily the best I've come across in 25 years at being able to do both disciplines."

Cozier is a substantial loss to the cricket commentary corps. In a sense he was West Indies cricket.

- NZ Herald

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